The 12 best men’s and women’s teams from around the world are converging in Pretoria, South Africa as we countdown to the final few days till the start of the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup South Africa 2023! Each team comes with the aim of becoming indoor hockey world champions, but only one team can earn the highest honour at the end of the World Cup. The first obstacle for all 12 teams in both men’s and women’s category, come in the form of their pool opponents. The top-4 teams in each pool will qualify for the quarterfinals with the teams finishing in the bottom two spots in their pool getting eliminated from the quest for the title. In today’s preview, meet the teams in Pool A of the men’s competition, and find out the unique playing styles they will bring to the World Cup.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 1
Indoor World Cup history: 2007 – 6th, 2011 – 3rd, 2015 – 2nd, 2018 – 1st.
About the Team: The defending champions and ranked number one in the world, Austria enter the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup South Africa 2023 event widely regarded as favourites. Their sensational victory at the previous event, where they defeated tournament hosts Germany to gold in front of a raucous capacity crowd at Berlin’s Max Schmeling Halle, is undisputedly the finest moment in the history of Austrian hockey. Numerous players who competed in Berlin have been named in the preliminary squad for the competition, including goal-scoring machine Michael Körper, playmaker Benni Stanzl and team captain Xaver Hasun. Another key player is Fabian Unterkircher, who scored both goals in Austria’s recent 2-1 victory over home favourites Germany in the final of the 2022 Men’s EuroHockey Indoor Championship in Hamburg. Defending a world title is never going to be easy, but Austria have every chance of success in Pretoria.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 8
Indoor World Cup history: 2018 – 7th
About the Team: Having claimed World, European and Olympic titles in recent years, Belgium have a sparkling reputation outdoors. Their commitment to the indoor game has grown significantly in recent times and were set to host the 6th Indoor World Cup in 2022 before Covid-19 restrictions forced the cancellation of the event in Liege. A second-place finish at the EuroHockey Indoor Championships in 2018, losing only to Austria – who went on to become world champions a matter of weeks later – is the highlight of Belgium’s recent indoor endeavours, but they will be looking to make a big impact in Pretoria. They certainly have the talent to go deep into this competition, especially in Philippe Simar, who finished top scorer at the 2022 Euro Indoors with 20 goals. Simar – who has been named captain of the team in Pretoria – scored seven times in Belgium’s 9-7 triumph over Czech Republic to claim a fifth place finish in that competition, with Mallory Magnant and Dylan Englebert also contributing.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 14
Indoor World Cup history: 2018 – 12th
About the Team: Kazakhstan return to the Indoor Hockey World Cup stage for the second time. Despite finishing bottom of the standings on their debut at Berlin 2018, they certainly won the hearts of those who saw their tireless, battling performances at the Max-Schmeling-Halle. They showed good form at the 2022 Men’s Indoor Asia Cup, claiming the bronze medal with a 5-4 victory over Indonesia thanks to goals from Aman Yelubayev (2), Daulet Urmanov, Yerkebulan Dyussebekov and Agymtay Duisengazy. Kazakhstan lost just one of their six matches at the event in Bangkok, Thailand, with Urmanov – who captains the team in Pretoria – netting ten goals to finish third in the top scorer chart.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 17
Indoor World Cup history: 2011 – 12th
About the Team: Namibia men make a return to the Indoor Hockey World Cup stage after an absence of 12 years and will be keen to make a big impact. The team finished bottom of the standings at the 2011 competition in Poznan, Poland, but will be relishing the opportunity to give a good account of themselves at the first Indoor World Cup to take place on African soil. Namibia finished in second place at the 2021 Indoor Africa Cup competition, which took place in Durban, South Africa and featured the hosts and Botswana in a three-nation event. Namibia’s Fagan Hansen, who was 18 at the time, finished as the top scorer in that competition, netting 24 goals in just five matches. Hansen remains a potent goal threat for Namibia, having scored seven times in ten matches against South Africa in the latter part of 2022. The team is captained by goalkeeper David Strauss, the only member of the current Namibia squad to have played at the 2011 Indoor World Cup.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 6
Indoor World Cup history: 2003 – 5th, 2011 – 5th, 2015 – 1st
About the Team: The Netherlands stunned all onlookers when they claimed the Indoor Hockey World Cup title at the 2015 competition in Leipzig (GER), beating Austria – champions themselves three years later in Berlin – with a 3-2 score-line. Having not competed in the 2018 event, they return to the Indoor World Cup stage with their eyes very much on the prize. The Netherlands won bronze at the 2022 EuroHockey Indoor Championship competition in Hamburg, Germany, powering to a 10-3 triumph over Switzerland in the 3-4 play-off game. However, it was their stunning 7-4 victory over eventual title winners and reigning world champions Austria that really turned heads, giving indication that they could be a real threat in Pretoria. Jochem Bakker, top scorer for the Oranje in Hamburg with 12 goals, is a prolific marksman for the team coached by Robert Tigges, a man who also knew the route to goal. Tigges scored 16 times to finish top scorer at the 2011 Indoor World Cup in Poznan (POL) before contributing six goals – including one in the final – to the Netherlands’ title success in 2015, where he was captain.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: N/A
Indoor World Cup history: 2003 – 12th
About the Team: New Zealand are making their first Indoor World Cup appearance since the inaugural competition in 2003, where they finished bottom of the standings in Leipzig, Germany. It may have been 20 years since the team last competed on the global indoor stage but following tireless efforts to re-establish their indoor teams, the New Zealanders will be determined to give a good account of themselves in Pretoria. They prepared for the competition with a series of matches against Oceania neighbours Australia, losing seven and drawing one of their games in the Trans-Tasman Challenge against a team that finished fourth at the last Indoor World Cup. The inclusion of goalkeeper Dean Armstrong in the preliminary squad is certainly eye-catching, with the 42-year-old having been part of the New Zealand team that competed at the Leipzig Indoor World Cup two decades ago.